Lebanese Foreign Minister: Hostages 'Certainly Alive'

Article Summary
The 11 Lebanese hostages that were taken in Syria by an unknown group still have not returned home. As Zaafar al-Attar reports, Lebanese officials insist that they have been keeping close contact with the hostages, that the hostages are “certainly alive” and that they are confident of their safe return. 

On May 29, Lebanese newspaper As-Safir learned from an official Lebanese source that the abductors began monitoring their 11 Lebanese hostages in Lebanon before they traveled to Iran through Syria and Turkey. However, they deliberately kidnapped them as the buses were returning to Lebanon, rather than when they were heading to Syria, as a political and security evasion technique.

According to the official source, who refused to provide details on this information, "the abduction operation was premeditated. It is trying to plunge the country into sectarian conflict, and they knew that the situation is ripe for such a conflict.”

Official information reveals that "a European country contacted the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, requesting a check of the 11 hostages’s names. The STL’s reply: None of these hostages are wanted.”

The source noted that "a foreign state has washed its hands of the Lebanese hostage issue, after having played a positive role." The source said that "former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s withdrawal from negotiations does not absolve him of his responsibility."

According to the source, Lebanese security circles are concerned that the kidnappers might initiate armed clashes with the Syrian Army to "cover up any previous assault they might have committed against the hostages by accusing the Syrian regime and claiming that the assault occurred because of the clashes initiated by the Syrian army. The kidnappers continuously insinuate that they are being bombarded."

The source declined to provide any recent information on both the hostages and their abductors, but he did note that the abductors “saw a tattoo reading ‘Support to Nasrallah’ on a hostage’s arm.”

The source added that “there is no justification whatsoever for the delay in releasing them."

The source said that "the reasons behind Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah statements, which hold him responsible for the kidnappers’ delay in releasing the hostages, are known to everyone."

A Suspicious Photograph

On May 29, the president of the Institution for Democracy and Human Rights, Nabil al-Halabi, announced the existence of a photograph that raised suspicion among the hostages’ families. Al-Halabi said that he gave the General Directorate of State Security in Lebanon a picture of one of the 11 Lebanese hostages.

The hostages’ families had been in a state of panic until yesterday [May 29], when rumors were spreading that the picture shows one of the hostages. However, an official source at the General Directorate of State Security told Assafir yesterday that "there is nothing serious in the picture. It only shows someone in a sitting position, and their face is covered by a dark black asterisk. The picture only shows from half of a mouth, down to slightly below the knees."

The source added that "the only thing clear in the picture is the person’s clothes, which makes it impossible for anyone to tell.” He noted that "Halabi received the photo on his cellular phone from sources he says are affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.”

“Definitely Alive”

As part of the official follow-up of the case, Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz visited Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and the head of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to Resistance Bloc, MP Mohammed Raad. He informed them that Turkey did not withdraw from negotiations, and revealed the results of the contact and efforts his country was undertaking to resolve the matter.

Mikati met with Iran's Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Rokn Abadi, with whom he discussed the Lebanese and Iranians who were recently kidnapped in Syria. After the meeting, Abadi said that the Islamic Republic of Iran is constantly making contact and efforts to release the hostages as soon as possible. When asked about any new information that Mikati may have in this respect, Abadi replied: "The most important thing is that they are safe and unharmed. We are constantly in contact."

Raad, accompanied by former MP Amine Shirri, visited former Lebanese prime minister Salim al-Hoss at his office in Aisha Bakkar to discuss the different developments in the country and to congratulate him on Resistance and Liberation Day. When asked about his opinion on targeting Shiite pilgrims in Iraq and Syria, as well as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s statement that events in Syria will spread throughout the region, Raad answered: “We condemn the kidnapping of the Lebanese visiting Iran. They targeted Lebanese citizens in areas of crisis. We hope to find the safest way to resolve the issue without any complications."

Raad announced that "continuous contact is underway, which may lead to their release and safe return. These contacts are being held away from the media, because it is better to handle the issue this way.” He added that there has been serious communication for finding a quick solution to the issue.

After its meeting on May 29, the Future Movement parliamentary bloc expressed hope that the hostages will return, stressing "the importance of reinforcing the atmosphere of convergence and rapprochement that emerged in Lebanon among the political parties by rejecting the kidnapping. Former prime minister [Saad] Hariri’s took a kind initiative by utilizing his contacts and making every effort to return them safely to their country."

The Future Movement bloc condemned "the kidnapping by an armed group in Syria, regardless of its identity, of 11 Lebanese citizens during their transit through Syria", saying that "such practices, by any side, are rejected, especially when they target innocent Lebanese civilians."

For his part, Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said that "communications regarding the Lebanese hostages are going smoothly, and they are certainly alive."

Found in: turkish mediation, security, lebanon, lebanese abductees, hostages, hezbollah, future movement, future, free syrian army

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